Anne Waverly is a forty-five year old alternative religion professor who occasionally is asked by the FBI to infiltrate religious communities and help determine if they are becoming dangerous. Four times she has been sent, each time escaping dark memories of her past, in hopes of atoning for a mistake that led to the loss of her husband and young daughter. This last time however, doesn't go as planned when Anne Waverly has a hard time becoming Ana Wakefield, her alter ego, and her past keeps trying to catch up to her, and threaten her mission.
So, could she trust herself in this state? Her mind was urging caution and rationality, forcing her to admit that the individual threats she had seen here did not necessarily add up to the sort of desperate scenario her inner eye was putting together: An antagonistic attitude toward the authorities, a man in the woods carrying a shotgun, a titular leader who was thinly connected with reality, and a de facto leader who was overly full of himself. That was it . Everything else came from her and her strange ties to two children, and all of it was tainted by her own past. Dulcie reminded her of Abby - that was where the cracks had begun. And then Bennett looked like Martin Cranmer, and the woods made her nervous, and by the time the pantry and the communal phobia about outsiders entered into the equation, she was so sensitized to parallels that a particular brand of pencil would take on an ominous significance. She had no business being there, no right to jeopardize everything by making decisions that could be based only on irrationality. The best thing for everyone would be if she were to stand up and walk away from the compound.
Leaving behind Jason in his alembic.
Abandoning Dulcie to strangers.
They would survive, her mind insisted. They would be fine.
But her gut, her heart, her every instinct cried out that here and now, the rational decision would be the wrong one, that the long term goal was just too far away. There were times when the expedient solution was not the right one, when only faith justified and action - educated and open - eyed faith if possible, but if that failed, blind faith would have to do.
There was, in truth, no choice to be made.
The deep trembling had subsided while she wrestled with her demon, and with that final realization, that a decision had made itself, she actually drifted into sleep for a while, free at last of the tension of being of two minds
As Ana works to discover what is really going on in the upper echelons of The Change movement, and tries to save the children put in her care, she also must come to terms with her past, and finally decide, once and for all, what her life is really worth.
The story is intelligent, full of portent, and you never quite know what path the author is going to take you down until you are there. And once again, Laurie King takes you down it brilliantly.
A Darker Place